Picture Languages

Portuguese speaking countries

Portuguese is an official language in Portugal, Brazil, Angola, Sao Tome and Principe, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Macao, Equatorial Guinea and East Timor and is spoken in 8 other countries as monther tongue by a part of the population.

With 199.75 million native speakers, Portuguese has the highest prevalence in Brazil. As a percentage of the total population, the largest share of around 99 percent is in Portugal. A total of about 228.5 million people worldwide speak Portuguese as their mother tongue.
The main areas of distribution of the Portuguese language are Portugal proper and the former Portuguese colonies in South America, Africa and isolated countries in Asia. In addition, there are numerous native speakers in the USA, Canada, France and other countries through migration.

Distribution Portuguese

CountryRegionOfficial languageDistributionTotal
BrazilSouth Americayes93.2 %199,752,000
AngolaCentral Africayes36.6 %12,628,000
PortugalSouthern Europeyes99.0 %10,222,000
MozambiqueEastern Africayes10.7 %3,432,000
FranceWestern Europeno1.2 %813,000
United States of AmericaNorth Americano0.2 %664,000
CanadaNorth Americano0.7 %268,000
Guinea-BissauWestern Africayes8.1 %167,000
ParaguaySouth Americano2.2 %147,000
SwitzerlandWestern Europeno1.2 %104,000
LuxembourgWestern Europeno13.0 %83,000
Sao Tome and PrincipeCentral Africayes34.6 %77,000
Cape VerdeWestern Africayes10.0 %59,000
Equatorial GuineaCentral Africayes1.2 %20,000
MacaoEast Asiayes2.0 %14,000
AndorraSouthern Europeno10.8 %9,000
JerseyNorthern Europeno4.6 %5,000
East TimorSoutheast Asiayes0.2 %3,000

Portuguese colonial empire as a starting point

In the 15th and 16th centuries, Portugal was considered a leading seafaring nation, sending numerous explorers and conquerors by sea to distant continents. The Portuguese world empire began in 1415 with what is now the Spanish exclave of Ceuta on the North African coast. Vasco da Gama discovered the sea route to India in 1498 and from there was able to explore what Europe considered remote areas of Asia. Within two centuries, they were basically fighting on all fronts at once and even tangled with the imperial army of China. Even today, many inhabitants in Macau and East Timor speak Portuguese.

In the 16th century, dozens of colonies were established in Africa. However, since Portugal itself had too few inhabitants, it was not possible to send large armies into the interior of the country. So they concentrated on the outlying areas and a Portuguese belt, often only 100 km wide, was formed almost around the entire west, south and east coasts of Africa. By the end of the same century, however, this had been almost completely lost. Portuguese influences, however, remained in many places. Today, Portuguese culture and language are found in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau.

South America: the struggle against Spain

Christopher Columbus was himself Italian, but on behalf of the Spanish crown, he found what he called India. Portugal did the math and located the New World south of the Canary Islands. Based on a treaty concluded 14 years earlier with Spain, the entire Caribbean and South America should have been transferred to Portugal. In the end, the Pope decided that Portugal was allowed to keep a small strip in the east of what is now Brazil. The rest of the continent went to the Spanish. Over time, Brazil expanded into large areas, but was allowed to remain Portuguese despite some friction. Thus, with the exception of Brazil, all South American countries received much greater Spanish influence. Only in neighboring Paraguay does a significant portion of the population speak Portuguese today, but this is no longer due to colonialism, but to migration in modern times.

Due to the great influence of the language, however, Portuguese is also taught as a second language in almost all neighboring countries.

Unless otherwise described in the text, this page is about native speakers — not the total number of speakers. How many people understand or speak Portuguese as a subsequently learned language is not the subject of this page. Countries where native speakers make up only a few thousand, or even a few hundred people, or countries with a percentage well below 1% are unlikely to be listed here.